Born: 4 December 1985 in Cincinnati, Ohio
Height/Weight: 6'10"/240 pounds
Signed: 2007, 1st Round MLB Amateur Draft
Tampa - 60.0 IP, 67 H, 9 BB, 56 K, 5.10 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 3.12 FIP
Trenton - 80.2 IP, 77 H, 30 BB, 70 K, 2.90 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 3.32 FIP
It would not be terribly hyperbolic to suggest that Andrew Brackman may be the definitive high-risk, high-reward selection in the history of the amateur draft. In the weeks leading into the draft, few questioned his fantastic stuff and potential for dominance. Brackman's college arsenal consisted of a high-90s fastball with two-seamer action and a knee-buckling breaking ball in the mid-70s. His tremendous height allows him to throw on a downward plane, and his sheer size and extension is capable of baffling batters. At the same time, however, Brackman had had injury problems in high school and at NC State, and his size does lend to the possibility of bone, tendon, and ligament issues. Further, many feared that lingering elbow issues would lead to surgery in the near future. As a result of the latter, the Yankees snatched Brackman with the 30th pick of the draft ... and he went under the knife shortly thereafter, with Dr. Andrews performing Tommy John Surgery.
Brackman's 2009 season was nothing short of horrific. 6.41 BB/9, a 5.91 ERA, a 4.66 FIP, and sloppy, inconsistent mechanics left Brackman tumbling down the Yankees ladder in the minds of many. His previously dynamic fastball sat in the mid to high-80s, his breaking ball had little to no bite, and there wasn't much of a change-up to speak of. However, a silver lining did exist, in that most pitchers take until year two post-TJS to recover their stuff (see: Liriano, Francisco). It was also worth noting that he maintained a roughly 1.5 G/F ratio and almost a strikeout per inning ... but the results remained poor, at best.
As any reliable optimist would have expected, Brackman rebounded tremendously in 2010. Brackman's ERA at Tampa is sort of ugly, but his peripherals indicated a fairly dominant showing - 8.4 K/9, 6.22 K/BB, 3.12 FIP, and 54% GB are very good, at the very least. His promotion to Trenton was handled with gusto, as well. While his numbers did regress a bit, the jump from High-A to Double-A is oftentimes the most difficult within the minors, and Brackman handled it quite well - while his strikeouts and walks went the wrong way, both remained solid, and his 51% GB is quite good, to boot. Most importantly, Brackman's stuff appeared to be all the way back. His fastball sat between 93 and 96 with good command, his curveball was showcased as a swing-and-miss pitch with excellent movement (and solid control), and his change-up is en route to being an average offering, sitting around 86 with a decent delivery.
The important lesson to take away from Brackman's 2010 is that visions of a quality starting pitcher are no longer a pipe dream. Brackman's progress is simply undeniable, and his arsenal is the stuff that hitter's nightmares are made of, to be a bit cliché. While I would not by into the Randy Johnson comparisons, as there's no real foundation beyond their respective heights, I do think that Brackman's ceiling is considerable ... and his floor is much higher than anyone previously expected.